6, the Summit Tunnel (Mile 105.5/Kilometer 170), cut through solid granite, 1,695 feet/517 meters long and 124 feet/38 meters below the mountain’s surface.1 Progress was agonizingly slow, with many kegs of black powder used each day, but to little effect in the hard rock. 2015. “I stopped the provisions on them,” Crocker later boasted in his testimony to Congress, “stopped the butchers from butchering, and used such coercive measures.” After eight days food ran low and the workers began to suffer, and Crocker, along with construction supervisor James Strobridge, the local Sherriff, and a contingent of deputized white men, confronted leaders of the workers, insisting that he would make no concessions and threatened violence to anyone preventing workers from returning to the job. 4 Charles Crocker, testimony, US Congress, Report of the Joint Special Committee to Investigate Chinese Immigration, February 27, 1877, 44th Congress, 2nd Session, Senate Report 689 (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1877), 669; 5 Crocker, Report to the Joint Special Committee, 674, On April 1, 1868, the town-site was laid out for what would become the city of Reno (Mile 154/Kilometer 248), named after Civil War general Jesse Lee Reno. One telling photo on view is a shot of the Union Pacific board members sitting in a business class train car from 1869. 1 The National Park Service has produced the most thorough study of the Golden Spike site and ceremony: Robert L. Spude, with the assistance of Todd Delyea, Promontory Summit, May 10, 1869 (US National Park Service, Intermountain Region, Cultural Resources Management, 2005). Much of the debate is expressed in the Central Pacific Photographic History Museum web site (cprr.org) and in its discussion section, such as at http://discussion.cprr.net/2007/01/dead-chinese.html. 1 Caxton [W. H. Roads], San Francisco Chronicle] quoted in George Kraus, High Road to Promontory: Building the Central Pacific (now the Southern Pacific) across the High Sierra (Palo Alto, CA: American West Publishing Company, 1969), 204, 208. The most difficult was No. Next to him there may be another man, similarly dressed, facing the camera, but a white man next to him has his armed extended and holding up his hat. The Chinese had already established a significant presence in the United States before the call for a transcontinental railroad came about. The arrival of the railroad changed the nature of Winnemucca, and the CPRR was very influential in its development. [, Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project, http://governors.library.ca.gov/addresses/08-Stanford.html, http://ia601403.us.archive.org/6/items/reportofunitedst05unitrich/reportofunitedst05unitrich_djvu.txt, http://cprr.org/Museum/Farrar/pictures/2005-03-09-01-08.html, http://cprr.org/Museum/AA_Hart-Mead_Kibbey_CSLF/Alfred_Hart.html. Only four years earlier the country had been divided by a bloody Civil War; the railroad that bound the East Coast to the West was hailed as an emblem of both unity and progress. Chinese also went on to build the railroad from Sacramento down San Joaquin Valley to Los Angeles. 2 Sue Fawn Chung, “Beyond Railroad Work: Chinese Contributions to the Development of Winnemucca and Elko, Nevada,” in The Chinese and the Iron Road, edited by Gordon H. Chang and Shelley Fisher Fishkin (Stanford: Stanford University Press, forthcoming). Chinese laborers made up a majority of the Central Pacific workforce that built out the transcontinental railroad east from California. These men stayed in their camps. This meant that there was one continuous line from Sacramento to Reno, and the first eastbound passenger train arrived in Reno on June 18, 1868.1, As that first train going East descended into Truckee valley, an unnamed reporter for San Francisco and Virginia City newspapers observed how “John [the vernacular name for a Chinese laborer] comprehending fully the importance of the event, loses his natural appearance of stolidity and indifference and welcomes with the swinging of his broad brimmed hat and loud, uncouth shouts the iron horse and those that he brings with him.”2. 1 George Kraus, High Road to Promontory: Building the Central Pacific (now the Southern Pacific) across the High Sierra (Palo Alto: American West publishing Company, 1969), 194-195. Plate 227. Their work continued well into the 20th century. As Crocker would recall, “If there had been that number of white laborers [on strike] . 1 Samuel Montague quoted in George Kraus, George Kraus, High Road to Promontory: Building the Central Pacific across the High Sierra (Palo Alto: American West, 1969), 90. Snow from fierce blizzards often blocked tunnel entrances, and the workers shoveled out tunnels through the snow, as much as 500 feet/152 meters long; they dug open windows, and they rested and ate in their white ice caves after spending their shifts in the dark of the mountain. By paying laborers a low wage, they were able to skim millions from the construction and get rich. People had to hold their pose a long time to take photos in those days – so it’s odd that this man holds his hat very deliberately to hide the face of the person standing next to him. 1 Samuel S. Montague, Report of the Chief Engineer Upon Recent Surveys, and Progress of Construction of the Central Pacific Railroad of California, October 8, 1864, 13. This road was necessary in order to haul up supplies for grading the railroad bed and laying tracks. He adopted western dress, and one of his specialties was Irish stew, indicating that he was not cooking for the Chinese workers alone. This was the largest engineering project of the time, crucial for developing the American West and connecting the United States across the continent. This is an introduction, a way to begin to convey a bit of what the Chinese workers encountered and what they achieved. They are given names, family lives, homes, spiritual beliefs, and agency. Veronica Peterson T he transcontinental railway was primarily built in two extensive portions by two corporations. 3 John Hoyt Williams, A Great and Shining Road: The Epic Story of the Transcontinental Railroad (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988), 98. In order to move the work more quickly, a stripped down locomotive was hauled to the top of the tunnel and work gangs set about sinking a vertical shaft 73 feet/22 meters down into the center of the tunnel. “The 150th anniversary is not just about completing a railroad, but the workers involved.”. The Central Pacific began in Sacramento, California working toward the East. Stanford University. A similar “wholesale” scheme was done for the Native Americans working on the line.1. . Chinese railroad workers in North America Project. Some historians estimate from engineering reports, newspaper articles and other sources that between 50 to 150 lives were lost as a result of snow slides, landslides, explosions, falls and other accidents, as well as sickness; other estimates run to 2000 or more Chinese dead.4. After violent campaigns to expel them, 1882 saw the first of many Congressional acts to exclude Chinese. In 1870 the census indicates there were seventeen Chinese cooks in Elko. In an unusual move, a chemist mixed the recently developed explosive, nitroglycerine, on site, but it was very unstable and dangerous, and the risk of accidental explosions always remained high. “Chinese workers were not citizens, weren’t allowed to become citizens. Water and ties had to be hauled by train to the end of the track and then by wagon teams across dry stretches of desert to the advance work gangs.3, Summer heat could reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit/49 Celsius, and many Chinese workers collapsed. More than 40,000 Chinese immigrants arrived in California during the 1850s. But this strike of the Chinese was just like Sunday all along the work. 1 George Kraus, High Road to Promontory: Building the Central Pacific (now the Southern Pacific) across the High Sierra (Palo Alto: American West Publishing Company), 252. During the festivities around the country there was little mention of the Chinese labor that played such a major role in the railroad’s construction. In the summer of 1865 the railroad builders faced one of their biggest challenges, a roadbed curving around a mountain high in the Sierra Nevada, named Cape Horn (Mile 57/Kilometer 91.7) after the treacherous route for ships sailing around the tip of South America. Rather than putting the Cornish miners directly to the task, Crocker decided to set up a competition between them and the Chinese. “There’s no question this is a story about migrant labor,” he said. An anonymous eyewitness account published in 1868 and reprinted in 1869 in several newspapers around the country describes a dramatic incident involving “Chinamen who did the work” being “let down in baskets” to place explosive charges (the precise location of the scene described is not mentioned): “Wholesale Blasting,” Providence (RI) Evening Press, December 14, 1868, 3; Weekly Union (Manchester, NH), January 19, 1869, 1; Bangor (ME) Daily Whig and Courier, February 11, 1869. [, "East and West shaking hands at the laying of the last rail." The great race to Promontory: the 150th anniversary of driving the Golden Spike. Utahans are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad. During the 19th century, more than 2.5 million Chinese citizens left their country and were hired in 1864 after a labor shortage threatened the railroad’s completion. Many people didn’t think it was possible.”. Some Chinese workers learned special skills in grading, tunneling, explosives, drayage, masonry, carpentry, and laying track. By July 1865, the Chinese workforce was nearly 4,000. As Hopkins reasoned, “A Negro labor force would tend to keep the Chinese steady, as the Chinese have kept the Irishmen quiet.”3, The strike in the Sierra was the largest collective labor action in American history to that date. 3 John Hoyt Williams, A Great and Shining Road: The Epic Story of the Transcontinental Railroad (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988), 207-208]; Kraus, 203. Like thousands of native-born Americans and immigrants from other parts of the world, they hoped to strike it rich during the Gold Rush. Library of Congress. 2 (May 1996): 149; David R. Roediger and Elizabeth D. Esch, The Production of Difference: Race and the Management of Labor in U.S. History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 77. T. Dillingham, 1878), 163−165; William Mintern, Travels West (London: Samuel Tinsley, 1877), 277; and Anonymous, Adams & Bishop’s Illustrated Trans-Continental Guide: The Pacific Tourist (New York: Adams & Bishop, 1884), 252. Without them it would be impossible to complete the western portion of this great national enterprise, within the time required by the Acts of Congress.” 3. A squad of eight Irish rail-handlers and an army of several thousand Chinese accomplished the feat. 5, May 1928, 3-5. The image of Chinese laborers hanging from baskets to do such hazardous work has appeared in many graphic images, literary representations, and histories, and this image became the stuff of legends. In early 1864 workers began blasting and digging through steep terrain on the Bloomer Ranch near Auburn to create a level grade for tracks. Desperate for employment, workers from this part of Guangdong boarded ships for California and other parts to support their families. Chinese workers were being drawn away from the railroad to work in nearby mines, even though the foremen tried to prevent them from leaving, sometimes by force. By Peter E. Palmquist, The Railroad Photographs of Alfred A. Hart (Sacramento, CA: The California State Library Foundation, 33-34, accessed Nov. 5, 2017, http://cprr.org/Museum/AA_Hart-Mead_Kibbey_CSLF/Alfred_Hart.html; Bain, 322; “From Trail to Tunnel: A History of the Southern Pacific Company,” Southern Pacific Bulletin (July, 1927), 11-12. 1 John R. Gillis gives a detailed description of digging the Summit and other tunnels to the American Society of Engineers. Observers could see masses of Chinese workers in three sprawling camps with a total of 275 tents. The track was not a simple straight line but curved so the workers had to bend the rails for all the curves. Union Pacific Railroad. Courtesy of Pajaro Valley Historical Association. Facing starvation and threats of violence, the workers ended the strike.4, Although the company did not concede to the specific demands, they learned that the Chinese could not be taken for granted. There were a few exceptions: At Promontory, a reporter for the San Francisco Newsletter describes one part of the celebration at Promontory ignored by other reporters: “J.H. Students will read and answer questions about the building of the Transcontinental Railroad, the Chinese and Irish immigrant labor, and the Land of Opportunity vs. Always wanting to make quicker progress, Charles Crocker decided that faster, more experienced workers were needed for tunneling out from the center of the shaft. Miners from Cornwall in southwest England had gained a reputation as being among the best miners in the world. Whether hanging from ropes or baskets, Chinese workers undertook an arduous and dangerous task of exploding and cutting through steep terrain at Cape Horn and other sites along the railroad. Even though it was spring, the weather was bad, with snow still on the mountaintops; the overseers of the Chinese workers were abusive; the wages were low, and they were forced to work long hours, longer than first stipulated. Students will analyze primary source photographs and political cartoons and work with data to color code sources of immig Forty-four storms were counted in one winter, and snow at the summit averaged 18 feet/5.5 meters with a total snowfall reaching over 40 feet/12 meters. A group of their descendants is trying to change that. That’s one way it failed.”. Protecting the UP This scan is the text of war department correspondence regarding Gen. William T. Sherman's 1867 order to provide military protection to trains on the UP route. “All workers on the railroad were ‘other’,” said Liebhold. [, âSummits Of Sierras 8000 To 10000 Feet Altitude.â # 187, Photograph. On June 25, 1867 the Chinese railroad workers went out on strike. Primary documents from Stanford University website, Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project. From 1863 and 1869, roughly 15,000 Chinese workers helped build the transcontinental railroad. In Nevada the CPRR hired Native American workers, and, according to a reporter who traveled with Charles Crocker, “there are about ten thousand Chinamen, one thousand white men and ‘any number’ of Indians employed on the road.”1 Crocker also made agreements with the Shoshone and Paiute nations for construction to move ahead unmolested; in exchange, the tribes would have free passage on the trains once they were running.2. The terrain was a bit easier once they reached the high desert of Nevada and Utah, but there they had to contend with extreme heat, long supply lines, and the breakneck speed of construction. Twenty workers died in one avalanche, and individuals disappeared in smaller snow slides. Calisphere: University of California. In 1862, the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific Railroad Companies began building a transcontinental railroad that would link the United States from east to … When they got that, they would go off to the mines, and we could not hold them, except in rare instances, more than a very little while.”4, 1 Leland Stanford, Inaugural Address, 1862. http://governors.library.ca.gov/addresses/08-Stanford.html. The railroad was completed to Winnemucca, 325 miles/523 kilometers from Sacramento, on Oct. 1, 1868, and the town became a center for Chinese life. The Union Pacific began construction of their rail in Omaha, Nebraska working toward the west. )APA citation style Hillary Brady, (2015) Early Chinese Immigration to the US. The Chinese Railroad Workers Project lessons touch upon many key issues in the high school U.S. history standards, including the building of the Transcontinental Railroad, immigration to the United States, challenges faced by immigrants like the Chinese … That year and the next local merchants – including some Chinese – rushed in with great anticipation of prosperous business. The Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project at Stanford University seeks to give a voice to the Chinese migrants whose labor on the Transcontinental Railroad helped to shape the physical and social … 5 Charles Nordhoff, California: A Book for Travellers and Settlers (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1872, 1874), 190; Williams, 97 - 98. Courtesy of The Alfred A. Hart Photo Collection, Special Collections, Stanford University. When they entered, all the guests and officers present cheered them as the chosen representatives of the race which have greatly helped to build the road ... a tribute they well deserved and which evidently gave them much pleasure . Between 1865 and 1869, thousands of Chinese migrants toiled at a grueling pace and in perilous working conditions to help construct America’s first Transcontinental Railroad. Courtesy of The Alfred A. Hart Photo Collection, Special Collections, Stanford University. Report of the Joint Special Committee to Investigate Chinese Immigration. Courtesy of The Alfred A. Hart Photo Collection, Special Collections, Stanford University. The Chinese diet and especially the use of boiled water reduced the outbreak of dysentery and other diseases. The Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project along with other initiatives aims to bring to light their actual contributions and lasting legacy.5. Cooks also boiled water so that at the end of each day every Chinese worker could take a bath.5. In January 1865, James Strobridge, the CPRR construction supervisor, advertised in the Sacramento Union and distributed handbills throughout the state, calling for “5000 laborers for constant and permanent work; also experienced foremen.”2 Only a few hundred came, far short of their goal, and as Charles Crocker, the manager who oversaw construction, later recalled, the workforce “never went much above 800 white laborers with the shovel and the pick.” While the demand for labor increased, white workers were reluctant to do such backbreaking, hazardous work, and they had better prospects in the booming Nevada silver mines. Forgotten Workers: Chinese Migrants and the Building of the Transcontinental Railroad” is on view from May 10, 2019, through spring 2020 at the National Museum of American History. Chinese Railroad Workers Descendants Association. In this visualization, we briefly recount the story of the Chinese workers in the context of engrossing topographic contour maps. In a new exhibition, the overlooked contribution of Chinese workers is being brought to the light for the 150th anniversary of the railroad’s completion, Thu 18 Jul 2019 07.00 BST At the same time, American Indian tribes were decimated, their lands stolen and cultures undermined; small farmers settled along the railroad’s route but then they became victims of railroad monopolies. Chinese workers worked longer hours than white workers and had to pay their headmen or contractors for their own lodging and food; on the other hand, the Central Pacific provided white workers accommodations and food without additional cost, and they were paid more. The roadbed was to be a ledge that snaked around the rock and the task required grading, leveling and clearing trees, stumps, rocks and other obstructions along a slope of “about seventy-five degrees, or nearly perpendicular,” as Chief Engineer Samuel Montague describes the site.1 Hundreds of kegs of black blasting powder were used to form a ledge from which a level roadbed could be graded and tracks laid. All these groups are outside the classical American mainstream.”. Now work could proceed in four directions, at both the east and west faces, and inside out. Some of them would stay a few days, and some would not go to work at all. Andrew J. Russell Collection. Photograph by Andrew J. Russell. These tasks included the including the actual laying of the rails; Chinese workers were mainly assigned to common labor, such as grading.3, Chinese workers had to provide their own food. Published by the Society, 1872, 155-172. Forgotten Workers: Chinese Migrants and the Building of the Transcontinental Railroad. The railroad company provided room and board to white workers, but Chinese workers had to find their own meals, which were often brought to them from local merchants. When the time came, the company would send a paymaster in a wagon accompanied by armed guards on horseback and interpreters (Sam Thayer from the company knew several Chinese dialects and he was joined by a Chinese interpreter). For example, those who worked in the tunnels were paid an extra $1 per month. “Historians have always known and written about the Chinese workers, but it’s forgotten by society,” said Peter Liebhold, who co-curated the exhibit with Sam Vong. Deemed social and political pariahs, Chinese faced extreme racist violence, and they were pushed to the margins of society, and to the margins of public memory and historical scholarship. They also drank tea and hot water, as well as occasional wine, and sometimes took opium. Upwards of 15,000 to 20,000 individual migrant Chinese laborers performed the bulk of the work constructing the Central Pacific span of the Transcontinental Railroad. The strike showed that they were not docile, that they could fight for their rights. From the 1850s to 1882, they were tolerated in the US, but not accepted as peers. With locomotives from each railroad facing each other, their pilots (cowcatchers) almost touching, men are lined up on each side to mark the moment, two chief engineers Greenville Dodge of the Union Pacific Railroad on the left and Samuel Montague of the CPRR on the right lean together with bottles between the smokestacks for a toast. 2 Charles Crocker, testimony, US Congress, Report of the Joint Special Committee to Investigate Chinese Immigration, February 27, 1877, 44th Congress, 2nd Session, Senate Report 689 (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1877), 667. 4 Kraus 158-159; Arthur Brown, superintendent of bridges and buildings, quoted in Kraus 190-191; Wesley S. Griswold, A Work of Giants: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1962), 193; Mead B. Kibbey, ed. No violence was perpetrated along the whole line.”, Charles Crocker cut off food and other supplies and did not allow use of the railroad to return to Sacramento. Read John R. Gilliss [sic], Civil Engineer, Member of the Society, “Tunnels of the Pacific Railroad, A Paper Read Before the Society Jan. 5, 1870, in Transactions, American Society of Engineers, Vol. Between 1864 and 1869, these Chinese also crossed the Pacific Ocean in what was then, and may still rank among the largest transnational labor migration movements. Courtesy of Oakland Museum of California. Charles Crocker told a newspaper reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, W. H Roads, that he had no idea exactly how many men worked on the line because “no list of names was kept, and the men worked by the squad, and not as individuals.”, Crocker explained that Indians and Chinese workers “were so much alike personally that no human being [i.e., white person] could tell them apart.” Consequently, he developed a scheme for paying them “by the wholesale.” Every morning there was a count, another at lunch, and a third count at quitting time. 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